So you have to cook for yourself now. I know that this can be a drag on cold nights after a whole day of studying but believe me, a good plate of food can really change your mood.

I’d say it’s always worth the effort but, then again, I was always the one who was first to start cooking and the last to have finished eating and washing up in my flat in first year. Cooking never really feels like a chore to me and I actually find it quite relaxing but whether you agree or not, I hope that some of these student friendly meals can inspire you to get the pots and pans out.

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Lets start with a classic curry.

This is a perfect meal prep dish! Cook it up on a Sunday and you could either entertain the whole flat with your culinary skills, have curry prepped and ready for every night of the coming week or have a healthy stash in the freezer thinking ahead to the later weeks of term when you really can’t be bothered to cook.

I’m going to stick with my favourite here and rather than going into elaborate detail, just give an overview of the process. It’s always easy to jump online and google a recipe or two for inspiration if you need a comprehensive step by step guide.

Cauliflower, Chickpea and Spinach Curry:

Not too many ingredients here, just: Small head of Cauliflower, 1 Tin of Chickpeas, 1 Onion, 2 Cloves of Garlic, Spinach, 1 Tin of Chopped Tomatoes, 1 Tin of Coconut Milk and then the spices are pretty much up to you. I tend to go for spices like, Mild Curry Powder, Garam Marsala, Cumin, Paprika, Turmeric etc…

To start, I like to roast up the cauliflower in the oven for about 20-30 mins at 200 degrees. All you have to do is chop up the cauliflower, toss it in a little oil and some of the spices and then let it roast away, checking on it occasionally so it doesn’t burn.  Then I start properly by heating up some oil in a saucepan and tossing in the chopped onion and garlic to start letting them soften up a bit. After a few minutes in the pan, I spice up the onion with a couple of heaped spoonfuls of the curry powder and whatever else I fancy adding (you can always refine this later if it’s not spicy enough for you).

After that, you’re nearly done already!

Just pour in the tomatoes and rinse out the tin with some water for a little extra liquid. Add the coconut milk, drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them in as well. Now you just want to let it simmer for a little while (~15 mins) and then you can add in your roasted cauliflower and as much spinach as will fit in the pan. Let the spinach do its thing and disappear and then you’re done!

Such a simple but warming dish that will always lift my spirits served up with some nice rice or naan bread.

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Now for possibly the most iconic batch cooking meal (at least in my opinion), Chilli Con Carne!

This is another one that can be a great way to bribe people or to have on hand for a cold day. Make up a batch at the start of term and if you’re out playing sport in the evening this can be a lovely dish to come back to and get served up quickly.

Chilli Con Carne:

So what’s in it: 1 Large Onion, 2 Cloves of Garlic, 2 Carrots, 2 Red Chilli Peppers, A Handful of Mushrooms, Medium Pack of Beef Mince, 2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes, 1 Stock Cube and again, you customise this however you like.

Use a packet spice mix or make your own with chilli powder, cumin, smoked paprika etc… And add as much or as little in the way of vegetables as you like. From a financial perspective, I like to add the carrots and mushroom just to bulk the recipe out a bit and make enough to last me for a few weeks at least. 

I start again by softening the onion and garlic in the pan for a few minutes and then I’ll normally throw in a few of the spices like chilli powder and cumin to flavour the onion. Next I add the carrot, chopped quite small and cover the pan for about ten minutes (if my will power is feeling strong) to let the carrot soften a bit over a low heat. Then I’ll turn it up a bit, add the mince and let it brown while breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon.

Once it has all browned, I’ll chop and add the mushrooms and the chillis (seeds in or out is up to you depending on how brave your feeling – I normally end up going half and half) and follow them up with the chopped tomatoes and the stock. I’ll add a bit of extra water if I need it to cover over all the other ingredients and add some more flavours. This is where I really make it up as I go along, adding anything I can find in the cupboard from a couple of teaspoons of mustard to Worcestershire sauce. And then I leave it to simmer for about 20 minutes. 

And that’s that. 

Rice is a good accompaniment but I often go for a baked sweet potato or just some tortillas chopped up and lightly toasted in the oven. 

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And finally for my personal winter favourite. It can be lunch, dinner, even breakfast if you like but I always love to have spares of this in the freezer for emergency use when I’m feeling a bit ill or just when the day’s colder than I’m expecting.

Tomato Soup:

You’ll need: 1 Large Onion, 3 Cloves of Garlic, 2 Carrots, 1 Parsnip, Cornflour, 2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes, 1/2 Pint of Vegetable Stock, Worcestershire Sauce, Spinach.

Unfortunately, this one does require some sort of blender unless you don’t mind it being un-blended or if you feel like trying to use a potato masher to get the desired consistency. I would say that a hand blender isn’t too bad an investment anyway though so it’s worth a thought. 

For this, start of the same as before by adding first the onion and garlic and then the carrots and parsnip to the pan to soften over a low heat. I tend to use butter instead of oil for this recipe and a good amount to really help the vegetables along. Once they’re soft, I’ll throw in some herbs (or spices if you prefer) and then throw in a couple of spoonfuls of cornflour to coat the vegetables and help the soup to thicken up.

When all the veg is ready, I add in the tomatoes, stock and a healthy amount of Worcestershire sauce for its unique taste and then let it simmer for about 20 mins or until the vegetable pieces are soft enough to blend.  Then I add in the spinach, let it reduce down, take the pot off the heat and blend it up to a smoother (but not too smooth consistency) and that’s that!

I often top this off with an extra splash of Worcestershire sauce and serve it alongside a nice piece of bread and it makes for a lovely, warming meal.

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I hope this may have given you some inspiration. With reading week upon us (for some at least) it’s a great mid-way point in the term to restock the freezer and prepare for the run up to the end of term. Cooking can be enjoyable once you’ve got the basics under control and can start to experiment so, again, I’d always encourage people to take a recipe and add whatever you like to it. 

Happy Cooking!